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On 13 November 2008, the Tax Agent Services Bill 2008 was introduced into the House of Representatives. After being read for a second time, debate on the Bill was adjourned and the resumption of the debate was made an order of the day for the next sitting.

The key elements of the regulatory reforms encapsulated in the Tax Agent Services Bill 2008 are:

  • a national Tax Practitioners Board (the Board) to replace the existing state-based boards;
  • a separate registration regime for entities providing Business Activity Statement (BAS) services as BAS agents, in addition to the registration regime for entities providing tax agent services;
  • a legislated Code of Professional Conduct to govern tax agents and BAS agents;
  • a wider and more flexible range of disciplinary sanctions which may be imposed by the Board; and
  • civil penalties and injunctions for certain misconduct by agents and unregistered entities.

The structure of the Tax Agent Services Bill 2008 is substantially the same as the May 2008 exposure draft (see 2008 TAXVINE No 21 (11)(30 May 2008)), with the addition of some provisions clarifying the appointment of Members of the Board, the investigatory powers of the Board and some additional miscellaneous provisions around secrecy, including the provision of information by the Board to the Commissioner.

However, the anticipated Tax Agent Services (Consequential and Transitional provisions) Bill 2008 has yet to be introduced (this Bill is anticipated to contain the ‘safe harbours’ which provide that, in certain circumstances, taxpayers who engage a tax agent or a BAS agent are not liable to certain administrative penalties that would otherwise ordinarily apply for making a false or misleading statement resulting in a tax shortfall amount, or for lodging a document late). Similarly, we are also waiting for the Tax Agent Services Regulations.

In a press release accompanying the introduction of the Tax Agent Services Bill 2008 (Press Release No.099, 13 November 2008), the Assistant Treasurer, Chris Bowen, also announced the Government's intention that a formal post-implementation review of certain aspects of the regulatory framework be conducted three years after implementation to ensure the new framework operates effectively. This Review will focus in particular on the independence of the Board.

For a copy of the Bill go here.

For a copy of the Explanatory Memorandum go here.

For a copy of the Assistant Treasurer's Press Release go here.

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